By Tracey Dowdy
Recently, I’ve been getting non-stop text messages addressed to someone named Alyssa, who is on her “last chance” to renew her warranty. They are as annoying as they are relentless. I’ve blocked the number and deleted the text without opening it dozens of times.
I’m not alone. According to YouMail, there were over 58 billion robocalls in 2019. The scams are almost as plentiful as the calls themselves – you’ve won a Caribbean vacation, your PC has a virus, your identity has been stolen, you’ve been selected for a unique opportunity, or won the lottery. You may even get messages purporting to be from a government agency like the IRS. However, the IRS will not call, email, or text you – they communicate almost exclusively through snail mail.
Wireless carriers are using SHAKEN/STIR technology to identify and block spam calls, on both their respective networks and between phone providers.
Software giants like Apple have added features that prevent unknown callers from ringing you. Google has made its Call Screen feature more robust by routing suspicious calls to Google Assistant before your phone even rings. When Android 11 is released, it will Include even more robocall identification and prevention features beyond the default Android Phone app.
If you’re receiving a lot of spam text messages, not just calls, you can forward the message to the number 7726 (spells SPAM). Though it doesn’t immediately prevent the number from texting you, it will allow your carrier to investigate and possibly intervene.
There’s no way to block every spam or robocall, but the FCC suggests taking the following measures to limit the number of calls you receive.
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize – let them go to voicemail.
- Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers – this tells scammers your number is real, and they can then sell your number to another company, or begin targeting your number more often.
- Don’t assume an incoming call is from a local number just because it looks like it is. “Spoofing” technology allows scammers to trick your caller ID into displaying false information like a local area code.
- Don’t respond to any questions that can be answered with a “Yes.”
- If someone calls you and claims to be with ABC company, hang up immediately. Use the company’s website to find an official number and call them to verify.
- If you answer a call and hear a recording such as, “Hello, can you hear me?” hang up.
- If you’re asked to press a number before being connected to a representative, hang up.
All the major carriers offer some form of call-blocking technology, some free, some fee-based.
AT&T’s Call Protect app is available for iOS and Android.
Verizon’s Call Filter app is automatically enabled for Android users on a postpaid plan. It’s built into most Android devices out of the box and is available in the App Store for iOS users.
T-Mobile’s Scam ID is free to all customers and includes Scam Block. To enable it, dial #662# from your phone.
Sprint’s Call Screener Basic was recently launched with a free option for its customers.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.